Helping Wales’ youngest patients: The Children’s Wales Air Ambulance is a specialist division of the Wales Air Ambulance Charity.
Wales Air Ambulance is dedicated to serving people in Wales. We are on standby every single day of the year, ready to help anyone during their most difficult hour. An important part of our job is to run the Children’s Wales Air Ambulance (CWAA). This is a specialist division of the charity because our youngest patients need a different range of treatments.
The operation is an integral part of the Wales Air Ambulance service, providing the expert care required for paediatric and neonatal patients who need air support.
Pictured (above): Paediatric emergency medicine consultant Dr Pete
Williams is pictured with our Babypod incubator, used to keep newborn
infants warm in flight on 999 missions.
Wales Air Ambulance’s transfer helicopter
Through charitable donations we introduced a fourth aircraft in 2016, dedicated to our inter-hospital transfer work. This made WAA the largest air ambulance operation in the UK. The EC135 T2e helicopter operates from the charity’s airbase in Cardiff and covers the whole of Wales.
The transfer helicopter is an important part of our work with children, who often need to travel to specialist paediatric and neonatal centres across the UK. Every single patient is different, and CWAA will take each child to the hospital unit that is needed for the illness or injury.
We work with NHS teams across Wales to care for children and babies who need urgent medical care, or to be flown home from a children’s centre – saving vulnerable young patients a long journey by road.
Pictured (above): Hospital neonatal teams join the
Children’s Wales Air Ambulance to fly a premature baby from Rhyl to Carmarthen in our special flight incubator,
saving hours by road.
Britain’s most advanced flight incubator
Working with NHS agencies, including the Cymru Inter-hospital Acute Neonatal Transport Service (CHANTS), WAA was part of a team of Welsh experts who came together to custom-build a new, highly advanced flight incubator for poorly babies who needed air transfers.
Through this partnership, two pioneering incubators are now fitted on board Wales Air Ambulance to transport vulnerable babies between hospitals.
The flight incubators are heated, oxygenated and have an all-round Perspex chamber, meaning medics can see and monitor the baby clearly. They weigh 100kg each and are fitted to a sled which slides into the aircraft.
In 2010 little Elain from Aberystwyth was just 12 weeks old when she
needed an urgent transfer from Bronglais Hospital to the UHW Cardiff,
over 100 miles away.
Elain was diagnosed antenatally with a congenital heart condition
and, taking a sudden turn for the worse, she was flown by Wales Air
Ambulance to Cardiff for emergency treatment.
After undergoing heart surgery, Elain spent five months in hospital
and was diagnosed with a pulmonary atresia caused by a rare genetic
condition, 22q11.2 Deletion Syndrome.
Elain’s parents, Bridget and Gareth, have since raised thousands of
pounds for the services that have helped her along the way, including
funds for video laryngoscopes for Wales Air Ambulance. This piece of kit
helps crews clear blocked airways using a camera, and has a special
attachment for children’s airways.
Five-year-old Will fell almost 20 feet through a farm shed roof at
his family home in Tan y Bryn near Abersoch, hitting his head on a
concrete floor. The Wales Air Ambulance crew were at the scene to treat
Will and took him and his mother Rhian to his nearest hospital in Bangor
within 13 minutes, a journey that would usually take an hour by road.
Will’s mother Rhian said: “The paramedic, Ian, spoke to Will in
Welsh, his first language, and reassured him. They also let me fly in
the helicopter with him which I’m so thankful for, as that would have
been the most horrendous drive of my life. But instead it took just 13
minutes to get him to the hospital and I was by his side for the whole
Fortunately, Will only suffered from bruising and a few scratches – a fact which amazed the family and crew.
Rhian added, “We are so thankful for everything the crew and the
doctors did that day; they really are superheroes to Will. He talks
about Ian and John all the time – I think he thinks they’re best
Seven month-old Anouk was airlifted by Wales Air Ambulance after
falling and hitting her head near her home in Conwy. Mum Sioux called
999 and, due to Anouk’s young age and nature of the injury, the control
room dispatched the air ambulance.
Anouk, Sioux and cuddly toy Tiger were airlifted to Ysbyty Gwynedd in Bangor, where Anouk made a full recovery.
Since the accident in 2011, Anouk has started school and is now 5
years old. She has a younger brother, Max, and plans to be a vet when
she grows up.
Adam was 18 months old when, during a family trip in Carmarthenshire, he needed to get to hospital fast.
Dad Iain recounts that day back in 2010: “We were visiting family
just north of Carmarthen. During the day Adam developed a rash and began
vomiting. The next thing we knew, he had gone blue and floppy. He gave
us a real fright.
“It would have taken at least 35 minutes to get Adam to hospital by
road from where we were, but Wales Air Ambulance was able to get him
there in just 4 minutes.”
Thanks to public support, Wales Air Ambulance had just upgraded its
aircraft to a ‘new generation’ model, which meant there was a spare seat
for mum Clare to accompany poorly Adam.
Iain added: “It was such a relief that Clare could fly with Adam, and
that Wales Air Ambulance was there for us that day. It brings it home
to you how important the air ambulance is.”